Tag Archives: high school

Carrie (1976 & 2013) – Review

30 Jul

With 54 novels and almost 200 short stories, along with over 100 film adaptations of these works, Stephen King is one of the most prominent writers to walk the face of our Earth. Incidentally, the first novel he ever published was the first of his works to be adapted. This, as the title of the review may suggest, is Carrie. The first film to be released in 1976 became a horror classic as the years went on, which spawned a little known sequel in 1999 and a TV movie in 2002. Along with these was a remake from 2013, which despite what I originally expected, isn’t half bad.

Let’s start with Brian DePalma’s 1976 classic.

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High school can be tough for just about anyone, but it’s especially tough for Carrie White (Sissy Spacek). Having grown up under the roof of her Christian zealot mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie), she hasn’t been exposed to close to anything that kids her age have been, making her a social outcast and victim of extreme bullying. One day, the humiliation gets so bad that Carrie discovers latent telekinetic powers, which her mom claims to be the work of the devil. When Carrie is asked to prom by track superstar Tommy Ross (William Katt), after his girlfriend Sue (Amy Irving) demands it to atone for her bullying Carrie, it seems like her world is about to open up to new possibilities. Unfortunately for Carrie, school bully Chris (Nancy Allen) and her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) stage a prank at the prom that unleashes not only more of Carrie’s telekinetic powers, but also years worth of rage and a violent desire for revenge.

Anyone who knows the story of Carrie should be able to understand why it’s actually so important, and also an iconic staple of the horror genre. It’s a devastating story of a young girl who is pushed too far by bullies, and she just so happens to have supernatural powers to get back at them. While this is a horror film, it can also be looked at as a drama, especially since the horror that it is known for happens during the last twenty minutes of the film. The other horror is also just watching her get tormented by the students and teachers at school, but also finding no solace at home with her mother who abuses her in a different kind of way. Carrie is a horror movie with a moral, and that’s to respect everyone, no matter how strange they may be… especially if they’re also gifted with murderous supernatural powers.

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Everything about the original Carrie just fits so perfectly. Brian DePalma’s highly stylized use of split diopter lenses and split screen editing makes for a unique experience, especially for a movie like this. The performances by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie are also something to take note of, and they were both nominated for Academy Awards for their work in Carrie. Isn’t that odd? Two actors being nominated for a horror movie? What I’m getting at is that this is more than just a run of the mill horror movie. It’s a cautionary tale told by one of the world’s greatest storytellers, and it deserves its spot as one of the greatest horror movies ever made.

So, when another Hollywood remake was released 37 years later, I kept finding myself wondering why it had to happen. Do we really need another remake of a classic horror movie? Well, like it or not, we got one so I did my best to approach it with an open mind.

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There really isn’t a whole lot of difference between this film and the original, aside from the casting and the use of technology. This time, Carrie is played by Chloë Grace Moretz and her insane mother is played by Julianne Moore. Of course all of the other kids are recast, but they aren’t really worth mentioning. What this movie does, however, is add the use of social media to heighten the level and stretch the reach of the bullying done to Carrie. The most complaints I’ve heard about the original Carrie, even given by Stephen King, himself, who loved the movie, is that it’s outdated. Kimberly Pierce, most famous for her critically praised film Boys Don’t Cry, updates the movie for today’s audience who might not have seen the original. In that way, this film still succeeds just as much as the original with a message that is universal and timeless.

This being a remake, there’s no way that I could look at this movie and not compare it to the original. One thing that I think actually did improve was Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Margaret. This may be completely sacrilegious to cinephiles everywhere, but I just think that out of every actress ever, she was the perfect choice for this part. She just does creepy and insane very well. The same can’t really be said for Chloë Grace Moretz as the titular character, however. She does a fine job, but doesn’t have the power that Sissy Spacek had. Just look at the iconic scene from the prom in the original. Spacek is genuinely terrifying in that scene, which is something that Moretz unfortunately couldn’t capture.

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Most people say that this remake, along with may others, didn’t need to happen. The original has become such a classic that that’s the one people should be watching. The reality of the situation is that a lot of younger people don’t have an interest in older movies. This version of Carrie is actually a good way for younger audiences to experience the story and hopefully learn a little something about how they treat people because of it. It definitely doesn’t reach the high standards set by the original film, but it’s a worthy remake that is actually worth checking out, if anything just for the fun of comparing.

The story of Carrie has become known to pretty much everyone, even to the people who have never seen the movie. It’s pretty cool to think that a story originally written in 1974 is still relevant today and probably will be years from now. It truly is a sad story that ultimately ends in tragedy, but it works great as a horror film as well. For purists, it may be best to stick with the 1976 classic, but (and I really can’t believe I’m saying this) the remake really isn’t bad at all.

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Elephant – Review

9 Sep

There are many things in life that completely baffle society which leaves us longing for a concrete answer. Many of these things revolve around apparently senseless violence, nonetheless senseless violence against children and teenagers. This is a very difficult topic to make a film about since you would have to walk a thin line between exploitation and dealing with the topic appropriately. Only in the right hands would violence against youth be handled correctly, and thankfully this is the case with Elephant, handled so well by Gus Van Sant. Not only dealing with the violence and horror of school shootings, Van Sant also examines the more microscopic violence and horror of high school and the effects of having so many clashing personalities in so confined a space.

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The morning starts just like any other at Wyatt High School in a quiet suburb in Portland. John (John Robinson) has to deal with being late for school once again because of his alcoholic father. Elias (Elias McConnell) spends his time taking pictures of students and developing them in the dark room. Nathan (Nathan Tyson) and Carrie (Carrie Finklea) worry about something obvious that remains unspoken, and Michelle (Kristen Hicks) worries about fitting in with the other girls. What remains unseen by all of these students are the activities of Alex (Alex Frost) and Eric (Eric Deulen), who are quietly formulating a plan to get revenge for the years of bullying that they have suffered through. Soon, this normally quiet school erupts into violence and bloodshed.

Elephant is one of the most brutal and disturbing films that I have ever seen, and it will probably remain that way until the last movie I ever watch. Many of the films that I have called disturbing certainly still will be, but the realism behind this and the thematic material involved hurts more than most films. This is one of those movies that could literally be sliced from a day of a real, seemingly normal day. This makes sense since Van Sant clearly took inspiration from the tragedy that occurred at Columbine High School. With all of the disturbing content, the most memorable part of this movie in terms of how it’s made, is the amount of really heavy suspense and the way the camera flows through the scenery; a technique that made me feel like I was a character in the movie.

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What Gus Van Sant succeeds at doing with this movie is making the viewer, whoever they may be, feel like they are these active observers in the sense that they move with the characters and see pretty much everything they are doing, but passive in a way that they can’t do anything about it. We follow the characters through the hallways like they are lab rats in a maze who are then faced with variables, Alex and Eric, that completely destroy everything about what they know. We are also never given much information about the characters. We only know just enough about them to know who they are on a basic level. Don’t mistake this for Van Sant turning this into a cold experience. The horror and shock is still felt on a very human level. This is film making at the most excellent.

Another thing that works really well in Elephant are the questions that we are left with. I always like to think about a movie when it’s over, but this one made me want to have a full blown discussion. The title of the movie refers to the famous saying about there being “an elephant in the room,” a saying that is now about the violence that Alex and Eric have, but also about the subject of these events happening in our schools and who to blame. Columbine isn’t an isolated incident, and after each event like it, people are always looking for something or someone to blame. What Gus Van Sant has shown with Elephant is that there really is no easy solution. There are too many things that happen, from the smallest event to the largest tragedy, that can effect someone, especially in this age group. It would be too easy to blame the media or gun control or whatever since there is simply too much to consider.

On every level, Elephant is a success. I believe that this movie should be required viewing, not just to film students trying to learn to hone their craft, but also to a younger generation as a way to show what their actions could do or even to understand the natures of other people. The violence, as disturbing as it is, isn’t senseless and the beautiful camerawork is really something that I could write a whole essay on itself. Elephant is a prime example of a talented film maker showing the level that film as an artistic medium can be taken to, but also how to properly use it as a tool for social awareness.